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6 min read

Psychotherapy in Austin: What To Expect From Your First Session

therapist offers psychotherapy to patient

Psychotherapy is a scientific term for talk therapy. It involves evidence-based practices and discussions provided by a licensed therapist or psychologist, typically throughout a number of sessions.

Key Takeaways:

  • Your therapist will guide you along every step of the journey of therapy.
  • It varies, but many types of and reasons for therapy use the same general process.
  • Austin has hundreds of qualified therapists trained in these methods extensively.

If you're searching for therapy in Austin, you've probably noticed that there are dozens of options for everything from one-on-one anxiety therapy to divorce counseling. With all of this specialization, it can be hard to find a clear-cut answer for what to expect from psychotherapy.

In this article, we're going to generalize psychotherapy as a field in order to guide you through what you can expect from a session in Austin.

Jump to Psychotherapy Resources on This Page:

What To Expect During Your First Psychotherapy Session

How Do I Know If I Need Psychotherapy?

Find a Psychotherapist in Austin: Williamsburg Therapy Group

Book a Therapy Session in Austin Today

What To Expect During Your First Psychotherapy Session

Psychotherapy is a very broad term, referring to any one of hundreds of types of therapy. In general, however, a psychotherapy session is what everyone thinks of when they think of therapy: A licensed professional speaks with a person (or group of people) about mental health concerns.

No matter your reason for deciding to attend therapy, many sessions will have a generally similar format, especially at the start of your journey.

Your specific experience may differ depending on your concerns and your therapist, but it's reasonable to assume the following format will be fairly consistent.

Step One: Housekeeping

At your first therapy session, you'll spend some time on logistics and paperwork.

One misconception about therapy is that it's a purely subjective experience, where patients come and go and therapists do their best to offer any advice that comes to mind.

But psychotherapy is actually very similar to a medical procedure in that it requires careful planning, a scientific and evidence-based approach, and, of course, paperwork.

When you first start individual psychotherapy, your therapist will start by walking you through a more detailed outline of what to expect, as well as any fees, scheduling issues, or documents that need to be signed.

Don't worry; your therapist knows all of this like the back of their hand and will guide you through every step of the process.

Here are some things you should have prepared before your first session in order to help this stage along:

  • Your medical history
  • Any pertinent family history
  • Insurance information, if applicable. Many therapists list their accepted providers on their website, but you can always call them or message them as well to double-check this info.
  • A notepad and pen
  • A scheduling app or calendar
  • A payment method

It's okay if you can't find some of this stuff or if you have limited access to family histories or medical information - it's not a test. Your therapist will help you get prepared as well as possible. Remember, they are there to help you.

Step Two: Introduction

After you've signed all the papers and talked about the details, your therapist will probably take some time to introduce themselves.

This step can vary, but your therapist might give you some information on:

  • Their educational background
  • Relevant career experience
  • Any personal experience that relates to your concern
  • What approaches they have seen success with
  • Confidentiality

They also may offer helpful ways for you to begin asking questions so that a dialogue can be established.

This is also your time to introduce yourself. You can be as detailed or as broad as you like - there is plenty of time to get into deeper discussions later on.

Step Three: Building Rapport

An important part of therapy is building trust between the patient and the therapist. To begin the process of building trust and rapport, your therapist will begin to shift the conversation.

At this point, your therapist may begin asking you questions like:

  • What brings you into therapy?
  • What is your family situation?
  • How is your social life?
  • How do you feel right now?
  • What is your biggest mental health concern?

Your therapist isn't asking these questions at this stage in order to "figure you out." Likely, they will use these questions to accomplish two goals:

  1. Establish an overview of your current mental health state as well as any existing support networks you may have.
  2. Try to relate to you more personally by sharing similar experience.

All of this establishes the groundwork necessary to have a productive therapy session on an ongoing basis. While we've listed this as step three, it will actually be an ongoing process.

Step Four: Exploration, Ideation, and Analysis

Once your therapist feels you (and they) are ready, they'll begin the actual psychotherapy portion of your session. Note that it is totally normal for this step not to happen until your second session.

The therapist will use the conversational and analytical techniques they trained for to begin working towards your goals.

It's hard to determine exactly how your session will look at this stage. If you are in therapy to address past trauma, your therapist may use trauma-informed therapy to help with your trauma recovery.

If you're going to therapy sessions for severe mental health conditions, your therapist may team up with a psychiatrist.

If you are having issues with your family, the therapist may suggest family therapy if it is appropriate for your situation.

Regardless of your reason for attending therapy, this is your time to open up. It's okay if you're not quite ready for that—the last thing your therapist wants to do is rush you. If you aren't sure where to begin, they can offer some questions to get the conversation started.

Your therapist will listen closely to everything you say without judgment and then use their comprehensive training and experience to work for your mental health. Some forms of psychotherapy involve activities, while others may utilize coping skills.

One of the most common forms of psychotherapy is cognitive-behavioral therapy, during which your therapist will use evidence-based discussion techniques to guide your thought processes toward being healthier.

Step Five: Closing the Session, Homework, and Follow-up

When time's up on your first session, you may be given some actionable activities to complete outside of your session, such as:

  • Journaling
  • Mindfulness
  • Coping strategies
  • Stress management techniques
  • Exposure (if you both feel you are ready for it)

Depending on the depth of your discussion, your therapist may spend some time preparing you for the session's close. This can be especially important for people with PTSD, for whom recognizing and talking about trauma can be a very vulnerable process.

Frequently Asked Questions About Psychotherapy

If you still have questions, here are some of the most common ones we hear:

What if I need to go to therapy secretly?

Most therapists have processes in place to help protect you from anyone finding out you are attending sessions.

Many therapists offer online therapy or at least allow you to book a session online.

In most cases, everything you tell your therapist is confidential, and they are legally prohibited from sharing anything you say (with a few exceptions) with anyone.

If you are a minor and need therapy but don't want your parents to know, speak with your school's guidance counselor about your options.

How long will I have to go to therapy?

Most patients attend therapy for three to six months. You may feel you are in a position to discontinue sessions before that, but it's also perfectly normal for people to go to therapy for way longer if that's what they need.

In fact, many patients choose to go to therapy on an ongoing basis in order to help maintain mental health and have no plans to stop.

Your therapist can help guide you in this regard, as they will be more in tune with your progress.

With a few court-related exceptions, you'll never be required to stay in therapy. You can also easily switch therapists if you feel there may be one who is a better fit.

What if therapy doesn't work for me?

If you've been attending therapy and feel stuck or don't seem to be making any progress, talk to your therapist about other approaches or referrals to another therapist.

Evidence-based therapy is very effective, but there are some cases where it's not enough. Many therapists partner with psychiatrists who offer medication management.

It may also be worth it to consider seeing a doctoral-level psychologist rather than a master's-level therapist, since they have more in-depth training about brain chemistry and therapy theory. A doctor of clinical psychology may be able to tailor a more effective plan for your specific circumstances.

How Do I Know If I Need Psychotherapy?

Therapy can be useful for any mental health or behavioral concern, so if you're not happy with the way you are feeling or behaving, therapy may be right for you.

If you are asking yourself whether you need therapy, there is a good chance you'll benefit from it. People go to therapy for severe emotional conditions, but you can also go to therapy for:

  • Job stress
  • Family fights
  • The mental impact of a physical injury
  • A cheating spouse
  • The loss of a pet
  • Guidance on self-improvement
  • Depression and other mental health conditions

Going to therapy is not an admission of weakness - it demonstrates that you are strong enough to take the steps needed to become a better version of yourself.

Feeling better may be closer than you think. The first step is to find a therapist.

Find a Psychotherapist in Austin: Williamsburg Therapy Group

Every psychologist at Williamsburg Therapy Group is doctoral-level, so they have unique insight into the mental health needs of Austinites like you.

Schedule an appointment online with one of our Austin psychologists to talk about your options for psychotherapy.

Book a Therapy Session in Austin Today

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